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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Our first week here has been incredibly full and filling. My eyes can’t eat another bite of this lush scenery. I have two fast friends, instant soul mates; Jenna and Noah. Noah is going to be working on an urban project to promote art and music as a means for high school dropouts to make money. It’s meant to derail the rapidly growing drug selling and stealing trends. He’s one of those people who is so full of ideas and plans and projects, they spill out of him constantly. His clear eye for art and natural ability to befriend people is wonderful to watch. And he is constantly taking photos, bending on one knee or leaning at odd angles to get the shot his mind sees.

We all three sit side by side on buses and benches and curbs, trading stories and goals and beliefs. As we tour the area, we soak in a bit about the culture here. Tourism is a huge part of the economy, evident by the many guides and expeditions and transportation and accommodation businesses that have sprung up all over. The costa ricans are smiling and eager to use their english. They seem happy to see us, and it feels good to bring our business here. We visit a coffee plantation and learn about the process of growing and roasting and selling the beans. It’s so beautiful and colorful. And the rich coffees taste aromatic and luscious.

We have arrangements for a bike tour with the group, but we three decide the ditch the group, claiming we need to catch up on internet and the like. Instead, we seek some off-the-tourist-map fun. We take a long walk through some neighborhoods. There’s a lot of wrought iron fencing: separating yards from sidewalks, windows from yards, schools from streets. They all have gates and even some windows in them; for what? Passing food through? One woman is leaning through such a window and chatting animatedly with a friend. I try to catch some of what they are talking about. I get the words for husband, car, and not much else.

We find a little tiny store and walk in and buy cheap ice cream sandwiches. The store is completely packed with individually packaged foods, many of which have a fine layer of dust on them. They even sell individual eggs out of a carton. I awkwardly pay with the coins I am so unfamiliar with. It feels like a kid not knowing if a nickel is worth more than a dime. The coins are heavier and more solid in my pocket than american change. I like the feeling. The store clerk is incredibly patient with my bad spanish and points us in the direction of a park. He asks us where we are from and lights up when we tell him why we are here. Gracias! He says. Thanks for coming to my country. I love the people here.

We walk with our treats to a small park overlooking another neighborhood. There is very worn grass, a dirt field with soccer goals with no nets, and some gnarled trees. I stare at the ground and find a tiny maze of paths where ants have worn down the grass with their walking. It makes me feel so disconnected with what is really happening in the world.

 

The next day we go on a hike in one of several national parks, walking and talking with some conservationists and non-profit workers. We learn that preserving biodiversity and land conservation is a huge priority of Costa Rica. How incredible! If only more countries had this approach. We discuss it’s correlation to tourism, how more people come here if there’s a jungle full of birds to visit. I also learn that there is no military in this country. I am eager to settle down into some research about the history of the politics here. It seems so unique. Everyone finishes our group discussion jazzed and thrilled to be here, in such a progressive and beautiful place. We channel that energy into finding a small local bar. It’s called the Pavo Real (which apparently means Peacock). The sign for the bar is the name in simple lettering over the now-familiar Imperial beer symbol. As the red and orange sun sets, we dance on a concrete patio out back, buzzed with cheap beer, feet shuffling on the fine dirt, giddy with laughter.

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He gets off the bus and walks through the misty morning air. Here, a glimpse of the mountain tops; even a peek leaves him yearning to chase the vision, to turn heel and move toward them like some magnetic pull- away from ruler straight streets to crooked trails.  Away from organized and orderly to the unpredictable and untouchable forces of nature.   Lately I feel like I’ve been turning my back on the rockies. They have their own way of moving, of displaying personality. They are constantly changing with the sun’s movement and cloud shadows. Every time you look at them, they are different, something new is highlighted; so whenever his eyes peel away he feels as if he is being slighted a chance to understand them more, to witness their beauty.  At the arboretum, he works methodically, following the same tried and true routine he’s become habituated to.  The only thing to distract him from the task that so consumes him, are his deep-seeded criticism for visitors.  Their bad habits, their noise, for their production of plastic and disposable waste. (Ignoring the fact or contradicting the fact that they are out to appreciate nature).  But of course, this criticism exists only in his thoughts.  He would never actually confront someone about this behavior; he’d rather quietly watch and pick up after them when they leave.

Back on the bus, a thin film of dirt along his limbs, he glowers at other passengers and keeps quiet. So consumed by their quest for acceptance and materialism, they are totally unaware of their surroundings!  That man on the phone has no idea there’s a red tailed hawk flying over his head.  That woman reading? Blissfully unaware of the sun glinting off the snow on the mountain peaks.  This is not a new thought.  He returns to it regularly- savoring the pain, much like a tongue running over a cold sore- almost subconscious and helpless.  But, he is right, in a way; as people drive their Hondas and draw money from bank machines, there are whales floating in the vast sea, predators chasing prey, tiny litters of wild dogs being born. They seem like different worlds, impossibly coexisting on one planet.

He steps off the metal steps, thanks the bus driver quietly, and walks to his cabin. He opens the door, pats Makea on the head, they perform their ritual walk in the woods.  Left behind, stoically and quietly waiting in his cabin are books, binoculars, camping gear, boots, and little else. Some photographs of mountains, climbing parties atop a summit. There is a picture of him and his family out camping: all of them sitting in a row along the lake shore line.  A great memory of a trip to the mountains in which everyone bickered and argued and battled the whole drive there, only to be healed, calmed, quieted and shushed by nature’s presence.  He returns to these items, turns on a yellow light, eats a simple supper as he reads a field guide or natural history book.  He cleans his one dish and one fork and one cup.   Afterwards, he walks outside, waters any plants that need it, puts his chickens into their coop for the night and stands for a moment before complete darkness envelops the yard. There’s a moment of gray silence in which everything melds in to the same color at varying shades as tree trunks become backlit by the simple acceptance of the day’s end. The light leaks out of the scene gently; gently but without pause.

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I was really looking forward to this weekend. I had so much planned. I was going out to dinner, really going out and getting dressed up. I was meeting with a few chair members to discuss plans for a big fundraiser coming up this summer. And of course I had all the usual engagements: time with my personal trainer at the gym, my therapy session, some errands to run, a hair appointment, and always work to catch up on.  But. We had about 3 feet of snow come down all at once, faster than high speed wireless; accompanied by a huge drop in temperature creating a very heavy crust of ice over everything. It started coming down late yesterday afternoon and didn’t stop. The kind of snow where you look down and get involved in something and when you look up, you think you have time traveled to a different era.  One in which everything is varying shades of white and all living things have become statues.  Kids around town were cheering even more than the usual sugary Saturday morning.  But I can’t stop the frown that has formed at the corners of my mouth. Everything is down. Internet’s gone, phone lines gone, roads are impassible, power is out.  The world is closed for the day, come back later.

It’s at least a moment to reflect on how amazing the internet is.  A way to break down our false sense of isolation, of living on an island and instead to realize that Croatian farmers have as much in common with Japanese woodworkers as elderly hospice patients have in common with mural artists in Central America. Before, maybe no one I know has anything to say about, oh, the best way to prepare a cup of coffee. But then you go online and hundreds of people are sharing their methods, their recipes, their love for a particular style of coffee. It’s like traveling all over the globe to as thousands of people one question; you can simultaneously have a conversation with women in Nicaragua and France as if they were neighbors you could just walk over and ask any old afternoon. Maybe I am pushing the point to far, waxing too poetically the beauty of the world wide web. But think about the abstract shift in thinking this creates. Suddenly, you can be in two places at once. Our barriers to language are over because online translating requires just the click of a button. People who have never breathed the same air can have a conversation together. Our lines of separation are disappearing- there is literally a way to connect everyone together. History and the future come together in a place where time does not have to be linear. Our illusions about separation are crumbling as we realize the common threads we share. And the greatest part about it is that there is no one creator, dictator, leader organizing this web. The internet is not stored in some big warehouse with a lock and key. It is made up of all of us – all of our computers and cds and thumb drives contain more information than could possibly be contained and erased.   But at this moment, my access to this magic cloud is cut off and it’s as if my lungs are crushed by the weight of it.  I can hardly breathe.   I live outside town, a four mile walk to the nearest bus stop, gas station, local grocery store. Great. Well. I guess I will just have to re-arrange my schedule. I still have my iPhone. Errands can wait. If the internet comes back (it always comes back!) then I can have the meeting become a virtual conference; I can call and re-schedule our dinner date, and I can always get work done for next week. I sit and make notes and memos for a while. Clean out old e-notes and re-organize my apps and calendar. This isn’t so bad.

 

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-AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thanks for the poll responses!  As the writing progresses, I have many new thoughts about formatting and the overall layout of the novel.  Things might change up a little bit here and there, as I settle in to the tone and direction of the stories.  Thanks for your patience!  And for those of you who are interested, I have simultaneously started writing about the writing process as I do this.  Feel free to read alongside! http://theblankpagedwriter.wordpress.com/  Cheers!-

He came home, opened the door, as if he knew (and he did know) that the dog was right behind the door, tirelessly wriggling his whole body in anticipation of that door.  They didn’t skip a beat; after a jolly reunion they headed straight for the thin but well-worn footpath.  

            What a particularly annoying day at work, and an extra loud day on the bus.  Thank god for this walk, just two minutes in and my heart starts to beat faster in happy exhilaration from moving my legs, from breathing crisp air, from escaping the squeeze of man-made things.  I’ve got to get a new doctor- that shmuck doesn’t even know what’s good for me.  High blood pressure. Bah. 

The afternoon sun is lower on the horizon.  The nights are producing more and more dew, until one morning we will wake up to white-edged frost painting every jagged leaf and pine.  Makea runs to the right somewhere, her wet nose just barely skimming the surface of the padded ground.  Shafts of sunlight stand tilted between trunks of douglas firs and pasty aspensThe trees have mostly dropped all their cones, as if they were women tossing handkerchiefs at a military parade.  Clay looks at them, and lost in recounting the day, the leaf litter blurs behind his thoughts.

 Pine cones. That little kid kept asking me questions about pine cones today.  He just had to ditch the family outing and interrupt me while I was raking. Reaching into my piles of leaves and needles and holding up a cone, asking me what tree it was from.  Asking what they were for and why they were shaped that way and why some were different colors and why why why why until I shouted at him to go buy a book about pine cones.  His eyes got big and he looked like he might cry and then- I can’t believe it- he started asking more questions!  Where do you buy books about pine cones and do I have one he could borrow and do I like my job and…I mean, I guess the kid had some good questions.  But it was as if his parent’s had never shown him a tree before.  And I’m not about to give the kid a lesson in plant reproduction. 

            He continued hiking up to one of his favorite spots- a grove of aspens in the folded v of a valley.  It was almost perfectly hidden from the trail, and from where he sits, the buzz of the town has completely faded to silent.  He savors the quiet, as if it were a tangible thing to taste on his tongue. His fingers soak into the spongy moss; and he smiles at the sensation that the ground softly gives way to his weight.  The breeze pushes the leaves into making a shushing sound and  gently tumbles through his hair

              It’s amazing the things I miss even when just walking on the trail.  As soon as I stop moving I hear the chick-a-dee-dee-dee singing and I see a nuthatch hopping in curls around a thick branch. Alright, so a plane flies overhead, you can’t completely escape.  But this is where I fit.  Every living thing around me knows its place and purpose and the good sense not to ask why or try and take more than what they need.  No more, no less- this is my definition of equality. 


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